Smooth Collies are elegant, active, intelligent dogs and make excellent family pets. They are considered to be a ‘vulnerable breed’ by the Kennel Club as there are less than 300 puppies registered each year and this is a shame as they are a very versatile breed that deserves to be better known. The Rough Collie has always been more glamorous and better known due to the Lassie films, but the shorter coat of the Smooth Collie should not be overlooked as it is very easy to maintain.
There are Smooth Collies enjoying life in agility, obedience, heelwork to music, canicross, flyball, showing and rally in addition to working as therapy, assistance and search and rescue dogs, whilst all being wonderful pets.
The breed should not be mistaken for Border Collies, working sheepdogs, farm collies or Bearded Collies as its appearance and needs are very different.
Opinions differ on this but the Smooth Collie is the same breed as the Rough Collie although the latter developed a long heavy coat to cope with the harsh weather in the Scottish Highlands whilst the Smooth Collie has a shorter coat more suited to the wetter, milder lowlands. Most people believe that the Smooth Collie was bred to herd sheep or drive cattle, so stamina and endurance are traits of this breed with the ability to work in all weathers.
It is known that Queen Victoria was a keen supporter of the breed and kept both Rough and Smooth Collies in her kennels during the 19th century.
Since 1st January 1994 under UK Kennel Club regulations, Rough and Smooth Collies can no longer be interbred and are treated as separate breeds, but their breed standards remain largely the same but with differences in a few areas.
They are medium sized (51-56 cms at the shoulder for bitches, weighing 18-25 kgs, and 56-61 cm for dogs with a weight range of 20.5 – 29.5 kg when adult).
Temperament and characteristics
Smooth Collies should be outgoing and friendly and never nervous or aggressive. They are very intelligent and quick to learn and like to please their owners and respond very well to reward based training and do not cope with harsh verbal or physical treatment.
They develop close bonds with their families and make excellent companions and are not known to be ‘one man’ dogs but love to be involved in all family life and excel at a wide range of activities such as agility, flyball, heelwork to music and obedience.
Owners describe them as having a good ‘on/off’ switch that makes them very easy to live with as they will do as much as is offered but are quite happy to be calm and relaxed when required.
Smooth Collies are usually very good with other animals and children but do not cope well if left alone for long periods as they can become noisy and distressed as well as lonely. However, like all dogs, they should spend regular short periods of time on their own from puppy onwards to prevent separation anxieties.
They are quick to bark and alert their owners to strange noises or disturbances but quickly settle and are usually very happy to accept invited strangers into their homes.
There are three accepted colours in the UK – the sable and white, tricolour and blue merle:
Sable – any shade from light gold to rich mahogany or shaded sable. Light straw or cream colour is very highly undesirable.
Tricolour – predominantly black with tan markings about the head and legs. Rusty tinge in top coat is highly undesirable.
Blue merle – predominantly clear ,silvery blue, splashed and marbled with black. Rich tan markings preferred but absence should not be penalised. Large black markings, slate colour or rusty tinge to top or undercoat are highly undesirable.
All white or predominant white is highly undesirable.
They have an easy to maintain double coat that is short and although, like most breeds, they moult each year, a few sessions with a steel toothed comb and a bath to finish it off should be all that is needed. In normal circumstances a quick weekly brush is all that is needed but care should be taken to maintain oral hygiene. They tend to be very clean dogs and will wash themselves quickly when covered in mud and water (although not averse to drying themselves against the furniture if given the opportunity!).
Adult Smooth Collies require approximately one hour of exercise per day but will happily take more if offered – exercise should ideally involve some free-running but all dogs benefit from regular sessions on a lead.
Puppies up to one year of age should only be given 5 minutes per number of months of age i.e. 3 month old puppy should only have 15 minutes and a 6 month old puppy, 30 minutes. This is to allow joints to develop healthily and hopefully prevent problems in later life – the same advice should apply for all breeds.
The normal range is from 12-14 years.
Smooth Collies are not normally fussy eaters but obviously benefit from good quality foods and most breeders should provide relevant information on feeding and recommend something suitable.
The breed is generally very healthy and not known for conditions requiring extensive veterinary care. Like all breeds there are a number of genetic conditions to be considered that can now be screened for and hopefully gradually eliminated by careful breeding. Read more on Health matters here.
The Kennel Club publishes a ‘standard’ for every pedigree breed registered in the United Kingdom and this is agreed by the individual breed clubs and for the Smooth Collie this is the Smooth Collie Club of Great Britain. This standard describes the ideal characteristics of a breed and is the guideline used for judges in the show ring and breeders when deciding to produce a litter of puppies.